Trends Pointing Up in Iraq, Joint Chiefs Chairman Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Mar. 15, 2005 America's top military officer said today that he leaves Iraq feeling "very good" about the situation in the country.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, administers the re-enlistment oath to three soldiers at the 3rd Infantry Divisions main headquarters at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq. Myers visited Mosul, Tikrit and Baghdad on March 14. Army photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him that following a visit with American and Iraqi leaders, he believes the trend lines in the country are up and "that we are on track with our work."
Myers said Iraqi security forces obviously are taking over more and more of the security mission. The general first visited Mosul, then moved to Tikrit and finished up the day March 14 in Baghdad. Iraqi and American leaders briefed the general on the progress made and the problems that remain.
Events on the ground will determine the level of U.S. troops in Iraq, and the months ahead will be busy, the chairman said. "We've got to get through the start-up of a new national assembly that's supposed to start this week, and then they have to draft a constitution, then a constitutional referendum, then elections by the end of the year," he noted. "So there are several major events, and we can anticipate that insurgents and others who don't want Iraq to make progress will increase their attacks."
Iraq's security forces now number 145,000. This includes the army and the various police units. "What we're looking at is capacity and capability, which are continually growing," Myers said. "Whether it is police on the beat, or on the border patrol or Iraqi army or special battalions, they have to go directly after insurgents; they all play the same role, and that is to provide security in this country."
Myers spoke to Iraqi leaders during his visit, and he said he leaves the country feeling that they know the situation and have been playing a larger role in leading the counterinsurgency effort.
The general said that while the size of the force matters, the capabilities are more important. The overall capacity of the Iraqi security force and the willingness of the people to trust the force is more important than whether elite units are deployed in various areas, he said.
One of the things Myers said he picked up during the visit was the number of common criminals in the anti-Iraqi resistance. He said the people causing instability are "a lot more criminal in nature than they are a true insurgency." The general said the coalition always has recognized the resistance included a criminal element not driven by ideology, "but it may be a larger piece that we see out there, than we first thought."
He said these criminals operate in the same way organized crime does in other parts of the world. But even with this realization, Myers said, the most deadly acts of violence in Iraq are the work of fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his al Qaeda helpers. Former regime elements also play a large role in the violence, he added.